When a shooting occurred near the Lillie May Carroll Jackson School in March 2022, the Baltimore Police detective working the case asked for help of Lawrence Smith, the school police department’s liaison to the Baltimore Police Department.
“10-4, I will advise,” Smith wrote, copying the email to his chain of command. He submitted and received four hours of overtime pay for the task.
But investigators with the FBI probing Smith’s overtime pay found that the BPD detective never received any footage or assistance from Smith, according to new details included in unsealed court records.
Instead, Smith was at Dunbar High School, where he has been a championship-winning football coach, and then at home booking vacations for family and friends. In hundreds of instances, they found Smith was at Dunbar, on vacation, on a boat, shopping or at home when he was paid to be working.
Smith was indicted last month on charges of fraud and tax evasion, with federal prosecutors saying he stole $215,000 in overtime pay over a span of 3 1/2 years. The new records show he is accused of stealing more than 3,300 hours of pay that he did not earn — more than two-thirds of the time he said he worked.
Smith had regularly been one of the highest overtime earners in the school police department, taking home an extra $94,500 from October 2020 to October 2021. Smith’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday morning.
The documents raise serious questions about supervision and policies related to overtime pay, as well as the school police department’s handling of Smith after the federal probe surfaced.
In a statement released Thursday morning, Baltimore City Public Schools officials said that the new records show “that the fraudulent scheme involving school police overtime is more extensive than the federal criminal charges” that were filed last month. “We are deeply disappointed by what we are now learning about the actions of a school police officer, who appears to have betrayed the trust of his colleagues and the entire community. We look forward to continued collaboration with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI to recover any public money that was wrongfully diverted for this officer’s personal benefit. "
City school officials said they will “continue to focus on strengthening oversight, going forward, so we can ensure that all monitoring, verification, and data systems for the school police are sound and support our officers’ daily work to safeguard our school communities effectively.”
School officials said they did not begin an internal investigation after they became aware of the FBI investigation because they feared it would interfere. “It is our standard practice to defer to the lead agency’s investigation to avoid interfering with their work,” the statement said.
Acting School Police Chief Norman Coleman, who was a major at the time, told FBI investigators that he was in charge of approving Smith’s overtime, but said that there was no pre-approval process as required by school system policy.
“Additionally, he did not verify Smith’s overtime slips for truth or accuracy after-the-fact, and no one within the department, including the Lieutenants who were also Smith’s supervisors, was tasked with doing the same — even after the investigation into Smith’s overtime became public,” the FBI wrote in a search warrant affidavit.
Coleman told the FBI he was “merely in charge of ‘rubber stamping’ all School Police payroll at the end of each pay period,” an agent wrote in court records.
And even after officials received grand jury subpoenas and were interviewed, the FBI said it knew of no internal audit that was conducted by BCPS or school police into Smith’s overtime, and he remained in charge of the overtime unit. School officials said that Smith was “transitioned out of overseeing overtime in fall 2022.”
In June, he was promoted from detective to corporal. Smith was released pending trial. City schools administrators placed Smith on leave after the charges were filed.
Smith — the only two-time recipient of the Baltimore Ravens’ High School Coach of the Year award — steered the high school team last season to its second straight Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association Class 2A-1A title, and the Dunbar Poets’ eighth championship under his leadership. Over the last five seasons, he’s coached Dunbar to a 61-4 record, second best in the state.
The investigation was sparked by the Maryland Office of the Inspector General for Education, which reported suspected overtime fraud earned by Smith and other officers during the COVID-19 pandemic, records show.
Investigators compared Smith’s overtime slips with his phone geolocation records, surveillance footage, and a plethora of his own Facebook posts, showing he repeatedly was at Dunbar, on vacation, or performing other tasks when he said he was conducting police work or assisting with COVID-19 vaccination sites.
Smith was also the only officer who was appointed to provide camera footage of crimes that occurred near schools to Baltimore Police.
In 2019, the FBI said that on 52 occasions in which Smith claimed that he was working various physical security overtime details, his cellphone location data placed him in the vicinity of Dunbar or his home in Baltimore County.
In one example, Smith submitted an overtime slip saying that on October 22, 2019 he was working at the Unified Tennis Championships and Awards Ceremony. Not only did his cell phone data show him at Dunbar and his home, but that event did not take place in October. Officials told investigators he did not attend the event in any capacity.
Fox45 previously performed a comparison of Smith’s overtime slips and Facebook posts, and the FBI did the same. In 2020, the FBI found that he was not in the vicinity of his overtime shift on more than 270 occasions, and was typically in the vicinity of Dunbar.
Once the COVID-19 pandemic began, he regularly submitted overtime slips saying he was working at testing or meal sites. He claimed meal site overtime at the Lord Baltimore Hotel from 4 to 7 p.m. — when the meal site was not in operation.
“The Department of Planning was not aware of any law enforcement agencies who provided security at the meal sites during these hours,” the court documents said. “There was no produce at the meal sites after-hours as all food was picked up and/or distributed during the daytime and therefore there was no need for a physical security presence in the evenings.”
He said he worked the Lord Baltimore site on Thursday, August 27, and Friday, August 28, 2020, from 4to 8 p.m. and 4 p.m. to midnight, respectively. But he was in Michigan at the time, and posted about being there on Facebook.
When he submitted overtime slips for assisting with Baltimore Police investigations, he often provided vague information, making it difficult to review whether he assisted in those cases. But the FBI said it found specific examples that could be refuted.
He said he was working a homicide investigation in September 2021, and investigators found email correspondence between Smith and a BPD detective requesting camera footage from Frederick Elementary School. He sent the footage the following day, during his regular shift, and did not respond to the detectives’ follow-up questions. But he received four hours overtime pay for the night of the request, and he had posted live videos to social media showing he was at Dunbar at the time.
In 2022, Smith claimed 1,079 hours of overtime, totaling $56,976 in overtime earnings. Of that amount, investigators believe that Smith claimed approximately 210 hours of fraudulent overtime, totaling approximately $52,815 in fraudulent earnings.
On seven occasions, records showed he was on vacation in Las Vegas, the Caribbean and Jamaica. Investigators found 52 incidents of overtime for assisting with BPD investigations, and believe he fraudulently claimed overtime in part or whole “on nearly every one of these instances.”
During another occasion that he said he was assisting with a shooting investigation, BPD detectives received no help from him, and he was at Dunbar and then hosting family and friends at his home.
A sex offense detective who asked for assistance with a rape investigation at George W.F. McMechen High School said Smith never responded to requests, even though he was paid for his time to do so, and records showed Smith was at preseason football practice and at home.
While Smith at times posted on Facebook that he was somewhere other than where he said he was working, they said in other cases he attempted to manipulate his whereabouts through Facebook posts.
Liz Bowie contributed to this report.